At first glance, there's nothing very impressive about K'Andre Miller's stat lines. This year, he didn't have the production of Bode Wilde (41 points in 61 games) and was also behind Mattias Samuelsson (31 points in 58 games) playing for the US National Under-18 Team.
That being said, Miller was very likely the top defenceman for the team due to his all-around ability.
Birthplace: Hopkins, Minnesota
Date of birth: January 21, 2000
Weight: 205 lbs.
Team: U.S National U18 Team
Miller was used in all situations: power play, penalty kill, and against the best elements of the opposing teams. He performed very well under the demands, especially considering his uncommon development path.
As surprising as it may seem now, up until the 2015-16 season, Miller was playing forward. This season was then only his third year playing on the back end for a team. And something seems to have clicked for him.
With the U-18 team, he put up good numbers — 29 points in 58 games — but, most importantly, he distinguished himself as a very effective player on the defensive side of the puck.
Despite just recently being used in the position, Miller shows a vision of the game from the back end that surpasses the great majority of defenders in the draft. He is a smart player who uses his ability to think ahead and his dominant attributes to great effectiveness.
This is what Miller can do when he is at his best:
K'Andre Miller wears #19 and is the defenceman in white at the top of the screen.
There are so many little good things that add up to create this play, transforming an opposing rush defence into a goal for the US team. And the defenceman is at the center of it.
Miller comes down skating forward and intercepts the Chicago Steel player racing through the neutral zone, forcing him to the outside. He pivots and, now covering the middle of the ice, also closes the gap with the puck-carrier.
He knows #6 of the Steel can pass to his teammate, now forced in the outside lane. But Miller doesn't close the passing lane immediately; he anticipates the puck is beign slid that way, and seems to want it to happen.
He doesn't show the full reach of his stick immediately, but as soon as he sees the lateral pass being executed, he cuts the lane and partially intercepts it. He then rides his right inside edge and is on top of the other Steel forward in an instant, separating the puck from him and clearing the zone.
But he doesn't stop there.
He supports the attack off the turnover. And like the confident player he is, he carries it through the neutral zone after receiving a short pass, challenges the opposing defender, and gives the puck to Oliver Wahlstrom who does Oliver Wahlstrom things, beating the goalie with an incredible snipe.
But there's one more thing in that clip: Miller has also seen Johnny Gruden coming into the offensive zone on his right side. So the defenceman makes sure to neutralize the Steel defender's stick, taking it out of the passing lane in case Wahlstrom opted for a cross-ice pass instead of shooting.
It was an all-around great play from the defender that showcased every quality that he has: his great reach, his lateral mobility, his strong defensive anticipation, and ability to read the game. And there are plenty of other instances during games where Miller displays the same things.
The 6'4” defender doesn't refrain from using his imposing size to crush opponents on the boards when it's appropriate.
But the standout characteristic of Miller is his great skating ability. He is quick, agile, strong on his skates, and can also generate some speed. They’re all things that serve him very well when he decides to carry the puck.
Despite the great tools that he has, on the purely offensive side of the game, Miller isn't as impressive. He has showcased that he has a good offensive flair, and hands, but his wrist shots — his preferred method of firing — needs work to be more threatening from the point. Considering his size, there could be even more power behind his release. He also needs to get the puck on net through traffic more consistently.
Apart from that, Miller is a good puck-distributor and has the necessary mobility to easily move around the offensive zone to give pass options to his forwards.
Rankings (not all rankings are final)
Future Considerations: #20
NHL Central Scouting (NA Skaters): #23
Hockey Prospect: #16
McKeen’s Hockey: #17
Miller has the tools to become a lot more effective as an offensive defenceman and sound on defence, but it might take him some time to put everything together. He has a very high potential, especially considering how effective he already is in a new position.
In my opinion, he is one of the best defencemen in this draft's class, around the top of the second tier with a few other names after the likes of Dahlin, Boqvist, Hughes, Dobson and Bouchard.
Next year, Miller is heading to the NCAA, committed to the University of Wisconsin. This is going to be a step up from the competition he faced this year, but we can fully expect the defenceman to get an important role as soon as next season.
If K'Andre Miller were to fall to the second round, he is a must take for the Montreal Canadiens.